One of the goals of LSN is to create an economic ecosystem among Latinas, but what does this mean exactly?
You see the general Latino market has been targeted for years, especially by product companies to be great repeat customers. We have been trained to consume products and identify ourselves with national brands. Did you know Latinas are natural promoters of brands? Yes, as a group we proudly wear them on our chests, show them off to our friends/family and talk about it through social media, more than any other ethnic group. This is a disadvantage for us Latinas in comparison to other ethnic groups who do not engage solely in these behaviors and here are the reasons why.
By continuing to engage only in consumer behavior, instead of innovating or creating our own products and services, we are making companies outside of our community very wealthy. Also, most of these companies have headquarters in other parts of the country, so this money automatically leaves and does not directly benefit our community.
As individuals we have to take responsibility of our own consumer behavior and it all starts with awareness. Here is a picture of the typical Latina consumer journey. As children the messages of certain brands start seeping into our subsonscious. We go to college, and often times we are the first in our family to graduate. As soon as we graduate and start making some money what is the first thing we do? Yes, the Latinos will buy a luxury car and Latinas will up the ante on the brand of dresses, accessories or purses into the luxury category.
There is nothing wrong with buying luxury brands. After all, if one has grown up poor, it feels good to buy something well made and pretty. However, Latinos in general will derive their sense of worth and self by becoming associated with these brands, instead of focusing on investing, creating or innovating. Furthermore, a major economic and social separation starts to occur in our community as many individuals start seeing themselves separate or better than those who have not risen. The ones who have not risen to a certain education or economic status only see the brand and the prestige and nothing else.
An economic ecosystem means that by buying Latina created products and services similar or better than what you would buy at huge retail chains, the money you spend has a direct affect on improving the economic life of that Latina, her family, her children and her community. This also increases opportunities for Latinas to create wealth and unfortunately this is something we Latinas have not done very well. Studies have shown that when you buy from a Latina entrepreneur, you directly affect 20 people related to her.
The second definition of an economic ecosystem is that if Latinas do business with each other, then we create our own economy, without the need to always go outside. Now that is POWER! If you look at other ethnic communities like Jews, Indians and Chinese in this country, who have far less numbers than we Latinos do, you will notice that they do business with each other and have found great economic success for the betterment of the community. And there is an important lesson to learn here as well. We need to start behaving like business people and this starts with doing (MOU's) Memorandum of Understand and writing up contracts in order to legitimize business relationships, instead of the common ask: "Can you help me?"
Often times I have heard the horror stories of Latina entrepreneurs being taken advantage of by their own community, delivering on their part and the other side leaving them out to dry, because a verbal agreement had been made. The first thing I always ask is: "Did you have an MOU or contract in place?' Almost 9 times out of 10 the answer is: "No, but we talked about doing business together." The conversation alone does not make it a business relationship. This is a behavior we as Latinas need to change in ourselves. Many times I have been asked "to help," but when I ask for the contract, there isn't one, or the typical judgement of me is made that I am not being supportive simply by asking for it to be in writing. I see myself as a business woman. My time is limited and there is a value to it. Asking for support is asking for charity. Asking to consider doing business together requires some form of a written agreeement.
In the state of California alone Latinos make up 39% of the state population. Worldpopulationreview.com currently has the population of the state at 39,309,017. This means there are currently 15,330,516 Latinos in California. That is a lot of Latinos! Now since Latinas usually make most of the buying decisions in their households, does this give you a picture of the power we have to innovate products and services for our own community, thereby affecting the economic well being of future generations?
We at LSN believe that our political and economic power lies in our own community doing business with itself and creating global brands that initially need the economic boost and business partnerships of Latinas in order to actually make it to national and global platforms. The time for Latina global brands has arrived, but it will only happen if we are intentional with doing business with each other as business women. The LSN Latina Start Up Academy will serve to close that gap. Becoming a member of this community will be the first step in allowing you to contribute to the growth of this economic ecosystem.
Rosie Zepeda, "the Closer"
Founder of Latina Success Network